Weekly Update: God and the Airforce
Judicial Watch Sues for State Department Records on Agreement with Clinton Aide Huma Abedin
The name Huma Abedin might be best known to you as the wife of disgraced former Congressman and former New York Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner. But it is her relationship with Hillary Clinton and the U.S. State Department that is of interest to Judicial Watch.
On September 5, 2013, we filed a FOIA lawsuit against the Obama State Department seeking access to all records detailing contracts between the State Department and Abedin, as well as the Clinton aide’s outside employment while under contract with the State Department.
Here’s what we’re after pursuant to our May 21, 2013, FOIA request:
- Any and all SF-50s (Notification of Personnel Actions forms) for Ms. Huma Abedin.
- Any and all contracts (including, but not limited to, personnel service contracts) between the Department of State and Ms. Huma Abedin.
- Any and all records regarding, concerning, or related to the authorization for Ms. Huma Abedin to represent individual clients and/or otherwise engage in outside employment while employed by and/or engaged in a contractual arrangement with the Department of State.
The State Department acknowledged receiving Judicial Watch’s FOIA request on June 5, 2013, and was required by law to respond within 20 working days. However, as of the date of Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, State hasn’t bothered to give any real response.
(Per the New York Post, “A State Department official said that the agency “takes seriously its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act and will handle this request [from Judicial Watch] accordingly, as it does all requests.” I’ll believe it when I see it.)
So now that you know what we’re after. Here’s the “why.”
Abedin left the State Department in February 2013, and in May 2013, Politico broke the story that, since June 2012, she had been working as a “special government employee” (SGE), a consultant position allowing her to represent outside clients while continuing as a top adviser at State. While working as a SGE, Abedin’s outside clients included Teneo, a strategic consulting firm co-founded by former Bill Clinton counselor Doug Band. According to Fox News, Abedin earned $355,000 as a consultant to Teneo, in addition to her $135,000 SGE compensation.
While Abedin has failed to disclose the exact nature of her work on behalf of Teneo, the firm describes its activities as providing “the leaders of the world’s most respected companies, nonprofit institutions and governments with a full suite of advisory solutions.” [Emphasis added] Outside of the U.S., it maintains offices in Dubai, London, Dublin, Hong Kong, Brussels, Zurich, and Munich. Teneo was also the subject of various investigative reports, including by the New York Times, which raise questions about its relationship with the Clinton Foundation.
Can you see how Abedin’s work for the State Department and her consulting work could lead to some serious conflicts of interest, and perhaps some corrupt co-mingling?
As is so often the case with the Clintons, or those close to them, Ms. Abedin’s questionable dealings are wrapped in secrecy. Hence the stonewalling. And this is not the first time.
You may recall, JW is also in court to obtain records detailing potential conflicts of interest involving former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton herself! From the moment President Obama nominated Clinton as the nation’s top diplomat, red flags popped up all over the place regarding her husband’s international ventures.
Obama may have “struck a deal” with Hillary over these complex relationships, but is that supposed to make us feel comfortable?
Well it doesn’t. Especially when you consider the fact that, among those vetting Mrs. Clinton for the job of Secretary of State, was Bill Clinton’s former deputy White House counsel Cheryl Mills, a longtime Clinton family confidant, who, the Washington Post wrote in 1999 “endeared herself to the Clintons with her never-back-down, share-nothing, don’t-give-an-inch approach …”
After clearing Mrs. Clinton for the State Department job, Mills was named the incoming Secretary’s Chief of Staff. Ms. Mills was a featured speaker at Bill Clinton’s 2012 Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting. Mills most recently was in scandal news getting angry with a Benghazi whistleblower “for cooperating with the investigators without having State Department lawyers present,” per the Daily Caller.
There is only one thing that will satisfy Judicial Watch and it has nothing to do with promises from the White House regarding the veracity of its vetting process. We want transparency with respect to the records we seek. And that is why we’re in court. Given the current stonewall, one can only suspect the Obama State Department has something to hide about the ethical conduct of one of its more controversial appointees.
Judicial Watch Sues DOD for Records about Removal of “So Help Me God” from Air Force Academy Written Materials
Back in July, I told you about a new wave of attacks against religious freedom inside the United States Military.
There’s the Air Force officer who was forced to remove a Bible from his desk because it might offend someone. There’s the military chaplain who was instructed to resign his commission if he refused to “get on board” with the abolition of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. There’s the 20-year-old ethics course that was eliminated in July 2011 because it referenced scripture. And there’s the painting containing a verse from scripture that was removed from the Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho following a complaint by an anti-Christian “religious freedom” group.
And now, the United States Air Force (USAF) Academy has removed the words “So help me God” from some written materials, including the oath administered to USAF inductees based upon the objections of a single atheist.
Judicial Watch initiated an investigation into this troubling decision. And on September 12, 2013, we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense to get our hands on records that could shed light on how and why this move was made.
JW seeks the following records as described in our May 6, 2013, FOIA request with the Pentagon:
- Records of the decision to delete, remove, and/or discontinue use of the phrase “… so help me God” from the USAF Academy written materials, including but not limited to the cadet handbook, and any other oaths of allegiance and/or office;
- Records of policy memos, directives or other materials and/or communications implementing the decision described in Point 1, supra.
- Records used for the factual foundation for the decision described in Point 1, supra;
- Records of all communications with Third Parties concerning use of the phrase “… so help me God” at the USAF Academy.
Now, let’s take a look at The USAF Academy “pledge of loyalty” oath, included as part of the Academy admissions material. It reads:
I, (name), having been appointed an Air Force cadet in the United States Air Force, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
While this oath has undergone modifications over the centuries, the phrase “So help me God” dates all the way back to 1776. So there can be no question regarding whether or not our Founding Fathers believed there was any conflict among the reference to “God” and our founding principles and the Constitution.
On the USAF Academy website, cadets are told, “Shortly after arrival, you’ll participate in one of the more solemn occasions of your cadet career: taking the oath that makes you a member of the Armed Forces of the United States. Consider what this country means to you and what defending it involves. You must serve wholeheartedly. If you have any reservations, resolve them before committing to an appointment to USAFA and before taking this oath.”
One Air Force Officer Trainee, Jonathan Bise, chose not to resolve his feelings about the oath, and then make a decision as to whether or not he could obey its dictates. Instead, he decided he wanted to change the oath itself more to his liking.
In August 2013, Bise procured the assistance of the American Humanist Association Appignani Humanist Legal Center to help him avoid using the religious phrase “So help me God” during his graduation ceremony at Alabama’s Maxwell Air Force Base.
In a letter to Air Force officials at Maxwell, the legal center alleged that the language of the oath was a violation of Bise’s constitutional rights, and warned that “all those involved in violating his constitutional rights are subject to a lawsuit in federal court.” In response to the threat of litigation, USAF officials removed “so help me God” from the oath for Bise.
But lest anyone believe this is only an isolated exception for Mr. Bise, the Air Force put those thoughts to rest, per the Huffington Post:
Air Force Trainee Jonathan Bise and others will be offered a chance to recite and sign a secular oath as part of their graduation ceremony on Tuesday, after officials noted that they had erred in including the phrase, “So help me God” as mandatory in both written and verbal versions. [Emphasis added.]
“Our previous legal advisors were mistaken in advising us that it was required,” Maj. Stewart L. Rountree wrote in a letter, addressing the planned revision. “Our current legal advisors made me aware and we will ensure it reaches all corners of our program.”
Unilaterally removing “so help me God” from Air Force Academy materials is at odds with our nation’s history, the rule of law, and the fundamental values of the American people. We want to get to the bottom of this controversy and it is a shame we had to go to court to try to get past the Pentagon’s stonewall.
Judicial Watch Victory: Judge Officially Voids Special Order 7
On September 23, 2013, thanks to a Judicial Watch lawsuit, California Superior Court Judge Terry A. Green officially voided a controversial Los Angeles Police Department illegal alien sanctuary policy, Special Order 7, which regulated the impounding of vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers. (Judicial Watch, on behalf of a Los Angeles taxpayer, was joined in the legal challenge by the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents LAPD officers.)
As I noted in a recent installment of this Weekly Update, the court had ruled on August 12 that the non-enforcement policy was contrary to California state law that required the impoundment of vehicles by unlicensed drivers. Over the objections of the City of Los Angeles and lawyers for the ACLU, who wanted the provisions of Special Order 7 to remain in effect throughout the appeals process, Judge Green issued an order immediately enjoining Los Angeles from continuing to follow Special Order 7.
Here’s the statement I offered to the press in reacting to the ruling: “This is a great victory for the rule of law and the taxpayers of Los Angeles. As a result of this ruling, the residents of LA are safer today.”
(If you want to know why citizens of California are safer because of our lawsuit and Judge Green’s decision, click here.)
Judicial Watch sought to stop the use of taxpayer funds to enforce Special Order 7, which limited LAPD officers’ discretion to impound vehicles for 30 days if the vehicles are driven by unlicensed drivers.
In the lawsuit, Judicial Watch argued that the City, Chief Beck, and the Police Commission lacked authority to enact Special Order 7 because vehicle impounds are governed by state law, not local regulations, and state law gives police officer wide discretion to impound vehicles. Advocates for illegal aliens represented by the ACLU intervened in the court fight to try to protect the City’s effort to water-down state law. And they lost.
But while the ACLU is licking its wounds, the organization is also plotting to appeal. “We will seek a stay of the trial court’s orders to ensure that SO 7′s protections remain in effect while the case is on appeal,” stated a spokesman for the ACLU of Southern California in an interview with CBS Los Angeles.
But for now, Special Order 7 is null and void.
Judge Terry Green called Special Order 7 “a real game changer” that conflicted with what the California state legislature intended when it enacted provisions within the state vehicle code.
And what did the California state legislature intend? For the citizens of Los Angeles to be safer, which happened to be in direct conflict with illegal alien activists who would prefer to be the beneficiaries of lenient police policies, no matter who is harmed.
If you have a moment, I highly recommend you review the August hearing transcript, as Judge Green’s decision is the very model judicial restraint.
The fact that we had to go to court for a taxpayer in order to get a local government to obey a basic state law on public safety shows how destructive the sanctuary/amnesty attitude is to the rule of law. LA politicians tried to get away with disobeying the state impoundment law because it impacted illegal aliens who have no business residing here.
You can see how when public officials try to help illegal aliens evade the consequences of their illegal behavior, all sorts of laws beyond illegal immigration become impacted.
Thanks to all your support for Judicial Watch, our lawyers (led by attorney Paul Orfanedes) were able to put a stop to some of this lawlessness in the second largest city in the country. Oh, and we beat the ACLU doing it!
Until next week…